Half-Marathon Training – Week 2

This week the runs were still short: only 2-3 miles a day. The problem is that we’ve been having really bad air quality for the past week because of the Rim Fire near Yosemite. We’re getting a lot of smoke and there are days my eyes are so irritated I can’t even drive straight. So even though I hate treadmills, I had to do my Saturday long run at a gym. At least I got to push myself and finished the run in less than 29 minutes. Can’t wait for this smoke to go away! Although a sunset and some smoke is a pretty stunning combination…

Smokey Sunset

Smokey Sunset

Palha Italiana – Brazilian Graham Cracker Cookie Bar

This week my Brazilian friend V. invited me to her place to learn to make “coxinha de galinha”, an appetizer from Brazil. I don’t miss many things from my home country since my mom sends me the mixture to make “pao de queijo” every month, but after she mentioned “coxinha”, my mouth started to water. It’s a fried dough stuffed with shredded chicken found everywhere in Brazil. We eat it in parties, at home, as an appetizer, as a snack, anytime, anywhere.

Coxinha de Galinha

Coxinha de Galinha

I thought she had made “coxinha” many times before, but when I arrived she was watching a YouTube video to learn how to make it. Instead of following the recipe step-by-step like I would, she shut off her computer and started to make it by scratch. It was quite funny for her to hear me ask questions like “how to you mince garlic?” or “what does kneading mean?”, but people don’t believe me when I say I don’t know how to cook until they see me ask stupid cooking questions like that. I didn’t really learn how to make “coxinha” that day. I’m yet to master the whole cooking by scratch thing. However, I’m really good at eating. They were huge appetizers, but I ate two at her house, then two while driving back home, and two more when I got home. I’m sorry, but all you guys who are gluten free, healthy eaters, don’t know what you’re missing. Indulging in some fried dough once in a while is what life is all about!

So what does “coxinha” have to do with “palha italiana”? Well, nothing, except that after eating some Brazilian food, I started craving more! While at work today, someone told the new staff that I make pretty good desserts, so that was my cue to make something at home. “Palha italiana” is one of those things that remind me of my childhood, then of middle school, and then of even college, because it is also a snack/dessert I could find anytime, anywhere in Brazil.

Palha Italiana – Brazilian Graham Cracker Cookie Bar

Palha Italiana

Palha Italiana

1 can condensed milk
3 tbsp. chocolate power
2 tbsp. butter
8 sheets of Graham crackers

In a bowl, crumble the Graham Crackers (in Brazil, “biscoito Maizena”). Reserve.
In a pan, mix the condensed milk, the chocolate powder, and the butter. Stir in low heat for 10-15 minutes or until mixture gets a little thicker.
Add the Graham cracker crumbles and mix it all together.
Pour the mixture into a 9×9 pan and let it cool. Cut it into 9 squares.

Calories: 275 per square

Half-Marathon Training – Week 1

Slick was my running buddy today!

Slick was my running buddy today!

I signed up for the Rock-N-Roll Las Vegas Marathon on November 17th 2013, but let’s be real, it is August 17th today and I haven’t started training. Three months is just not enough time to train for a marathon (18-20 weeks would be ideal…), and since my dad will be living with me for the next three months as well, I just didn’t think it was fair to him if I was living and breathing marathon training while he’s visiting me, so I decided to adjust my goal and train for a Half-Marathon instead.

I am following a 14-week plan from the magazine “Women’s Running”. When I first looked at it, it just seemed too easy: this week I was just supposed to run 3 miles and walk for about 2 miles the rest of the days, but as the week developed, I learned that was just what I needed. After 10 weeks of vacation, it was hard to get back to work. I was so tired I could barely move, but I did walk to the beach in Tahoe after work a couple of times and today I ran my 3.25 miles in 35 minutes. It felt so good! But 3 miles was enough as my legs started to hurt. I think I’ll stick to this 14-week plan for the Half-Marathon and leave the marathon training for next year when I’m turning the big 3-0.

Christchurch, New Zealand

Between 2010 and 2012 Christchurch had several huge earthquakes that destroyed the whole city center. They are still rebuilding it, but most of the city is just a bunch of parking lots and construction sites. The Re:Start area is full of shipping containers transformed into stores, bringing a little bit of life to the area.

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I walked thru the botanical gardens (I love that NZ is full of them!) and went to the Canterbury Museum, but the best attraction in town is the Antarctic Centre, which was the perfect way to end my trip to New Zealand.

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Christchurch is the main hub for those going to Antarctica and the museum has plenty of information about the continent. They have little penguins swimming around and a room where you can experience below 0 temperatures and a wind storm. Pretty cool, especially when that’s the only continent I still have to go to. Now I feel a little closer to completing my 7-continent list.

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Lake Ohau, New Zealand

On our way to Lake Ohau we stopped to see the Moeraki Boulders, which are huge round rocks on the ocean. The scenic route didn’t end there. The region is full of lakes and views of Mt. Cook, the highest one in New Zealand. By Lake Tekapo we also visited the Church of the Good Shepherd and a monument to border collies (I miss Slick…)

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Lake Ohau is a tucked away place with an eco-lodge and a ski resort. They both have won awards for sustainability and the resort has been voted the best one in New Zealand for years. It was a splendid place and I had a lot of fun at the toga party. Last night with my tour peers! We danced and sang our theme song until 3 am.

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Dunedin, New Zealand

Dunedin is a university town in the South Island. I thought the city was pretty rundown, but I guess after Queenstown, everything will seem like that. We walked to the Octagon, which is the main plaza, with the church and a sculpture of the poet Robbie Burns, and then to Baldwin St., which is the world’s steepest street.

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In Dunedin we also took two very informative tours. The first one was about beer at Speight’s Brewery, and the second one was about chocolate at the Cadbury Factory. I don’t know which one was better. We had all you can drink beer at the brewery, but the chocolate one had a chocolate fountain that dropped 1 ton of chocolate in one minute.

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Travelling in Queesntown, New Zealand

Okay, here it goes. The highlight of my trip. Can’t wait to go back to Queenstown in the future!

Arrowtown – Wild West 1800’s town like Virginia City in Nevada, built around the gold rush. It’s in the Otago region, near Lake Wanaka, which is a beautiful wine area.

Puzzling World – mazes and illusion rooms in Wanaka.

Shotover Jet Boat – crazy fast boat ride that gets super close to the rocks on the Shotover River. Freezing cold!

Skyline Gondola – Amazing panoramic views of Queenstown, the lake, and The Remarkables mountain range.

The Waterfront – that’s where the Botanical Gardens are. Nice marina too.

Queenstown Mall  and Beach Streets – pedestrian streets where all the bars and shops are.

Cardrona Ski Resort – skiing in August!

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Milford Sound – a 5-hour drive from Queenstown, but totally worth it to cruise the nice fiords by boat.

Bungee Jumping Kawarau Bridge – can’t even begin to describe the experience of jumping off a bridge 43 meters high with only a rope tied to your ankles. The Kawarau Bridge bungee was the first one ever in the world started by A.J. Hacket in 1987.

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Eating in Queenstown, New Zealand

I’ve been trying the meat pies and the fish and chips everywhere I go, but New Zealand had been pretty uneventful in terms of eating until I got to Queenstown. My first stop was the buffet at the Skyline Restaurant. You have to take a gondola up there and the view of the city is incredible. I tried everything in the buffet, from scallops to venison. The New Zealand lamb and the kumara (a type of sweet potato) were pretty good, but of course, my favorite was dessert: sticky date muffin with butterscotch sauce.

The next day I had to have sticky date muffin again, this time at a café on Beach Street, accompanied by mulled wine. Hmmm, I love warm spiced wine in the winter! I also have to give props to the chai latte in NZ. Creamy and delicious. I had one at the Cardrona Ski Resort while talking to a lawyer from Christchurch and his son, an architect from Wellington. Kiwis are so friendly!

Apparently the best place to eat in Queenstown is at Fergburger. They are open 24/7 and at any time there is a line (especially at 4 am when everybody is getting out of the clubs!) The burgers are huge, but super good.

My best find though was a little restaurant called “The Cow” on Cow Lane. I kind of stumbled upon it since it’s in a hidden lane and had to wait 30 minutes for a table. While the food was average, the ambiance was excellent. We sat next to a couple from Christchurch who shared their garlic bread with us. Again, Kiwis are extremely friendly! When I asked them if they had been to the US, they replied: “We love the US! Well, except Reno.” Lol. I kept quiet and just said I was from the Tahoe area 🙂

For such a resort touristy town prices were not too bad. The nightlife was pretty good and you can get $3 shots anywhere.

My tour mates at Winnie's Pizza

My tour mates at Winnie’s Pizza

Running in Queenstown, New Zealand

You know how I always say Lake Tahoe is the most beautiful place in the world? Well, Queenstown is a close second. Gorgeous blue lake, amazing blue skies, and stunning snowcapped mountains make for pretty great scenery, so it was not hard to get motivated to run there. The track goes along the lake from the Botanical Gardens to Frankton. At the park you can watch people playing disc golf and when you reach downtown there is always some entertainment like the Piano Man.

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Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, New Zealand

In the Southern Alps we visited two of the most famous glaciers in New Zealand. Each is at least 12 kilometers long (7 miles) and the ice pretty much descends from the mountains all the way down to the rainforest. First we walked to the Franz Josef Glacier thru a beautiful trail and then up to Sentinel Rock to get a good view of the glacier.

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In the afternoon I took a helicopter ride to Fox Glacier for another hike. The ride was breathtaking and we landed right on the glacier. With crampons on, we started to make our way up the face of the glacier. Climbing on ice was very difficult but so exciting! The heli-hike was my most expensive activity in New Zealand but worth every cent.

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